The Portland Trail Blazers are adding some depth behind Damian Lillard by signing former lottery pick dennis smith jr. to a training camp deal, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Smith is no guarantee to make the final roster, but the Blazers have two open roster spots remaining with 13 players holding guaranteed deals. Anfernee Simons is currently the only backup point guard on the roster, so Smith should have a good opportunity to make the team.
It has been a disappointing NBA career for Smith after the Dallas Mavericks selected him with the N0. 9 pick in the 2017 NBA draft. The guard put up decent averages of 15.2 points, 5.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 29.7 minutes per game as a rookie, though he shot under 40% from the field and made just 31.3% of his 3-point attempts. He was named to the NBA All-Rookie Second Team.
With Luka Doncic entering the picture in 2018, the writing was soon on the wall for Smith in Dallas. The guard was then traded to the New York Knicks in the 2018-19 season as part of the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster. Smith was never able to find his footing in New York, though, and he was traded to the Detroit Pistons for Derrick Rose this past season.
In 20 games for the Pistons in 2020-21, the 23-year-old averaged 7.3 points, 3.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 19.6 minutes per game. Smith shot 41.5% from the field and 35.2% from 3.
Dennis Smith Jr. is almost certainly never going to live up to his draft status, but he’s still young and has time to find a niche for himself in the NBA. Perhaps he can do that as a backup for Damian Lillard in Portland, where the Blazers are about to embark on an important season amid all the Lillard drama.